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My Black is Beautiful

By Titus Falodun Staff Writer | 10/11/2013, 4:14 p.m.
Janet, like many black girls, struggles with her identity and appearance. ("Imagine A Future").

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Producer/Director Lisa Cortés

The goal of the My Black is Beautiful initiative is to change the lives of one million black girls, in the span of three years.

At the screening of its documentary “Imagine A Future,” as part of #BloglaciousFIVE last week in Atlanta, viewers witnessed the intimate and inspiring journey of self-discovery for a black teenager named Janet Goldsboro.

Janet, like many black girls, struggles with her identity and appearance. Her dark brown complexion is not an image that is reflected too often in the mainstream world. What is being shown is something that appears unattainable and unreal.

“It is product. It is beauty manufactured; beauty that’s created,” Essence magazine editor-at-large Mikki Taylor said. “The danger in that is trying to live up to it.”

The 30-minute documentary also features high profile black women expressing their own struggles of understanding and appreciating their black beauty. “Precious” breakout star Gabourey Sidibe, Olympian Gabrielle Douglas, actress/singer Tatyana Ali, and other notables all share insights into their experiences.

“We didn’t start out not loving ourselves,” director of “Imagine A Future” and executive producer of “Precious” Lisa Cortés told The Atlanta Voice. “In many ways, this is part of a legacy of slavery, of divide and conquer, of seeing yourself as less than.”

In 1939, The Clark Doll Experiment was an experiment done by Kenneth Clark and his wife Mamie, in which they asked black children to choose between a black doll and a white doll. The dolls were the same except for their skin color but most thought the white doll was nicer.

Fast forward decades later, and it appears that not much has changed in black children’s psyches. In magazines, you can find Beyoncé nearly white in complexion, despite her natural brown hue, as mainstream media bombards the culture and the world at-large with other fairer skinned figures.

These images penetrate the black youth and perpetuate an untruth about black beauty. Cortés can attest to this, as she shared her own life-changing moment as a black girl growing up.

“The teacher says draw a picture of your family,” Cortés recalled. “I drew this picture, and the teacher went around and was like ‘Ooh, great.’ But she didn’t give me that same encouragement for the picture that I drew.”

Cortés went home and told her mother.

“My momma was like ‘I’m going to put my bra on and go down to that school,’” Cortés continued. “My mother explained to me that sometimes people will try to marginalize us to make us invisible, but we have to remember what we have been through, who we are, how deep our beauty is, and how beautiful my black family is.”

That was precipice for Cortés’ mother going to speak to the teacher, who was shamed and began incorporating images in the classroom that were a reflection of Cortés’ culture.

“That was a defining point as a very young artist,” Cortés said. “It showed me that my picture, my family, my world is beautiful; it’s important and it needs to be represented.”

With her story and films, Cortés is giving people that comfort zone to speak about very difficult things, while acknowledging the preciousness within all black women.

For more information on My Black is Beautiful and to view in-full “Imagine A Future,” visit https://www.myblackisbeautiful.com/.